Coyotes look for mental toughness

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Madera quarterback Colt Nelson throws a pass during Friday’s three-way scrimmage against Hoover and Bakersfield Christian.


FRESNO — After enduring an 0-10 season in 2016, the Madera Coyotes football team rebounded with a 6-6 record in 2017, and the signs point to a bigger improvement for Madera in 2018.

“We got the bones to be a really successful football team,” Madera head coach Yosef Fares said after his team’s scrimmage at Hoover High School in Fresno. “Right now, we still need to continue to build and develop mentally. I think it’s all mental for us right now. We lined up with Bakersfield Christian (coached by Darren Carr, Derek Carr’s brother) and we were shocked in the beginning. We settled into it and we began to play football. In order to beat those high-quality opponents, we have think and believe we can and that’s really got to be the message from here on out.”

The Coyotes took part in a three-team scrimmage on Friday night that included the Hoover Patriots and Bakersfield Christian. All three teams took turns going up and down the field, practicing on both sides of the ball. Although it wasn’t an ideal situation, Fares credits both coaches for giving Madera the opportunity.

“It was very nice of coach Carr and coach Rustin Pickett to let us come in because our opponent canceled last minute, we were scrambling,” Fares said. “Usually, we don’t like to do three-team scrimmages, but they were kind enough to adjust their format to let us in. I’m very thankful to those two programs.

A strong offensive line, coached by former Super Bowl winner Anthony McCoy, a hungry defense looking to play Coyote football and an offense that features an explosive duo in Colt Nelson and J.J. Espinoza are prepared to take the County/Metro Athletic Conference.

Nelson threw for more than 3, 800 yards last season with 34 touchdowns, while Espinoza proved to be a reliable option in all areas of the field. It’s safe to say their connection is building so far during preseason after a dazzling display against the Patriots.

After consecutive run plays, Fares dialed up a shot down the field. Nelson stood in the pocket before throwing a 15-yard pass to Espinoza who found space in the middle of the field. Although Espinoza looked certain to be tackled, he absorbed the loud pop from the Hoover safety which spun him around and sent him on his way to the end zone.

Espinoza’s job wasn’t finished however. In order to get into the endzone, Espinoza had one man to beat, which he did with ease as he side-stepped the ill-disciplined defender, sending him sprawling on the ground. Espinoza lunged into the end zone, giving the Coyotes both the score and a sense of promise for the campaign to come.

While their offense looked good as the scrimmage went on, the Coyote’s defense showed their focus for the new season. On back-to-back plays, the Coyotes coverage in the backend of the field allowed their front seven to swallow up the running lanes for the Hoover quarterback.

Although just a friendly scrimmage, the Coyote defense showed their ability to swarm the ball.

“We just need to work on a few things,” Fares said. “Offensively, sustaining our blocks on the o-line, we have to work on our quarterback. He’s very excited to get into the season so he’s a little erratic to start, but he calmed down and he was back to himself.

“Defensively, up front we still have to work on our get offs and controlling the line of scrimmage. As well as keeping our linebackers’ gaps sound. We did pretty well. If I was disappointed in anything, it was the way we started off against Bakersfield. If you take away that start, and add how we finished, you could definitely say it was a successful scrimmage.”

The Coyotes open the season Friday traveling to Easton to face the Washington Union Panthers.